Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 Back to the Exhibit

Rep. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey to Hannah Boudinot, April 24, 1789

New York April 24th 1789           

My dearest Wife

      If it was in my Power, I could wish to give you an adequate Account of the Proceedings, of the Citizens of this Metropolis, on the approach, and at the reception of our President. when we arrived here yesterday––I can not do it Justice, & therefore should not attempt it, did had I not so much Sanity as to think that you will be something gratified by its coming thro’ this Channel, however imperfect.

      You must have observed, with what a propitious Gale we left my beloved Shore (it contained the wife of my Bosom--(inter nos))--and glided with steady Motion across the New Ark Bay, the very water seeming to rejoice, in bearing the precious Burthen across its placid over its placid Bosom--the Appearance of the Troops we had left behind & their regular firings added much to our Pleasure.

      When we drew near to the Mouth of the Kills; a number of Boats with various Flags came up with us & dropped in our wake––Soon after we opened the Bay, General Knox & several Gentn. in a large Barge, presented themselves with their splendid Colours–-Boat after Boat & Sloop added to our Train gayly dressed in all their naval Ornaments [torn] made a most Splendid Appearance--Before we got to Bedloe’s Island, a large Sloop, came with full Sail on our Starboard Bow when their stood up about 20 Gentlemen & Ladies & with most excellent Voices, [lined out] sung an elegant Ode prepared for the Purpose to the Tune of God Save the King, welcoming their great Chief to the Seat of Government–-At the conclusion, we gave them our Hats, and then they with the Surrounding Boats gave us three Cheers. Soon after another Boat, came under our Stern & presented us with a number of Copies of another Ode, and immediately about a dozen Gentn. began to sing it in parts as we passed along–-Our worthy President was greatly affected with these tokens of profound respect–-As we approached the Harbour, our Train increased & the Huzzaing and Shouts of Joy seemed to add Life to this lively Scene--At this Moment a number of Porpoises came playing amongst us, as if they had risen up to know what was the Cause of all this Joy-–We now discovered the Shores crouded with thousands of People––Men Women & Children––May I may venture to say Tens of Thousands; From the Fort to the Place of Landing altho’ near half a Mile, you could see little else along the Shores-- -in the Streets and on Board every Vessel, but Heads standing as thick as Ears of corn before the Harvest--the Vessels in the Harbour made a most splendid superb appearance indeed, dressed in all the Pomp of . The Spanish Parkett in a moment, on a Signal Given discovered 27 or 28 different Colors of all Nations, on every part of the Rigging and paid us the Compliment of 13 Guns--with her yards all Manned--as did another Vessel in the harbour, displaying Colors in the same Manner.

      I had omitted the like Compliment from the Battery of 18 Pounders--–We soon arrived at the Ferry Stairs, where there were many Thousands of the Citizens waiting with all, the eagerness of Expectation, to welcome excellent Patriot to that Shore, which he had regained from a Powerful Enemy by his Valour & good Conduct--–We found the Stairs covered with Carpeting & the Rails hung with Crimson--The President being preceded by the Committee was received by the Governor & the Citizens in the most brilliant Manner––Here he was met on the wharf with by many of his old & faithful oFficers & fellow Patriots who had borne the Heat & Burthen of the Day with him, and who like him had experienced every reverse of Fortune with fortitude & Patience, and who now joined the universal Chorus of welcoming their great deliverer (under Providence) from all their Fears.

      It was with difficulty a Passage could be made by the Troops thro the pressing Crowds, who seemed to be incapable of being Satisfied by Gazing at this Man of the People--You willsee’ the parliculars of the Procession from the Wharf to the House appointed for his residence in the News Papers––the Streets were lined with the inhabitants as thick as the People could stand, and it required all the Exertions of a numerous Train of City Officers with their Staves to make a Passage for the Company––The Houses were filled with Gentlemen & Ladies the whole distance, being about half a Mile, and the windows to the highest Stories, were illuminated by the sparkling Eyes of [lined out] innumerable Companies of Ladies, who seemed to vie with each other to show their Joy on this great Occasion.

      It was half an hour before we could finish our Commission by introducing the President for his residence as soon as this was done, notwithstanding his great Fatigue of both Body & Mind, he had to receive all the Gentlemen & Officers to a very large amount, who wished to shew their respect in the most affectionate manner––When this was Finished & the People dispersed, we went undressed, and dined with his Excellency Governor Clinton, who had provided an elegant Dinner for the Purpose–-Thus Ended our Commission-–The Evening tho’ very wet was spent by all ranks in visiting City Street after Street, which was being illuminated in a superb Manner--I cannot help taking Note how high1y we were favoured, in the weather, the whole Procession having been compleatly finished & we had repaired to the Governors before it began to rain-–when the President was on the wharf an Officer came up & addressing the President said, he had the honor to command his Guard, and It was ready to obey his orders. The President answered that as to the present arrangement, he hoped he would proceed as was directed but, that after that was over, he wanted hoped he would give himself no farther Trouble, as the [lined out] Affections of his fellow Citizens (bowing to the Crowd) was all the Guard he wanted Good Night. may God bless you.

Yours affly.                          

E. Boudinot                   


(Letter courtesy of the Princeton University Library)

digitized from DHFFC transcription   
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